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Party Winds Down for Baseball Organist

After 41 years at Chicago White Sox games, Nancy Faust plays her last note

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Nancy Faust's days of playing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame,' are coming to an end when she retires in October.
Nancy Faust's days of playing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame,' are coming to an end when she retires in October.

Going to a baseball game is an American summer tradition, and a big part of that ballpark experience is the stirring, up-tempo organ music that's played throughout the game.

When teams score runs or players make hits, organ music leads the fans in chants and cheering.

At the seventh inning stretch, the organ always plays "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." And in some baseball stadiums, the organist treats fans to an impromptu concert before the game or when there's a break in the action.

Last season

For 41 years, fans at Chicago White Sox games have been entertained by organist Nancy Faust. But this is her last season.

Faust planned to be a school teacher but her college friends encouraged her to apply for a job as a ballpark organist for the Chicago White Sox. She did and got the gig. That was in 1970.

Until then, she admits, she'd only attended one baseball game.

White Sox organist Nancy Faust autographs a baseball cap for a fan.
White Sox organist Nancy Faust autographs a baseball cap for a fan.

"So I came in not knowing what to do exactly but the organ was located in the center-field bleachers," says Faust. "What I did then was mainly play songs that reflected the towns that the ballplayers were from, (or) the states. If Bill Melton was from California, I'd play, "California, Here I Come." But since then, I've branched out and I do more crazy, far out things."

In October, at the end of this season, Faust is retiring. Over the past 41 years, she's seen the game of baseball change and feels it's time for her to move on.

Drastic changes

"When I started playing here back in 1970, the entertainment consisted solely of the organ music," says Faust. "Things have changed drastically since then. We have the scoreboard games, the quizzes, dancing, just a myriad of entertainment that wasn't available in those days."

And many organists are being replaced by recorded CDs.

"The sounds that you hear eventually at the park could be the sounds you are hearing at any sport, any mall, any nightclub," she says. "It's just kind of lost its individuality."

Many organists are being replaced by recorded CDs at major league baseball games.
Many organists are being replaced by recorded CDs at major league baseball games.

But the fans haven't lost their enthusiasm for Faust. On a hot summer day, when the White Sox hosted the Yankees, they lined up to say goodbye.

"Hearing her play, it's just, it reminds me of baseball," says one of those fans, Paul Gustilise. "It's like old school baseball...and the crowd's always more into it for her compared to the piped-in music. I just ...definitely going to miss her."

Party's over

For four decades, Faust's life has revolved around baseball and the White Sox.

She set her wedding date on a weekend when the team was playing out of town. And, the only five games she's missed were when her son, Eric, was born, 27 years ago.

Looking ahead, Faust admits she'll miss interacting with fans and performing before 40,000 people.

Pictures of fans and their families grace the wall behind where Nancy Faust plays the organ at White Sox baseball games.
Pictures of fans and their families grace the wall behind where Nancy Faust plays the organ at White Sox baseball games.

"I kind of laugh to myself. My husband, Joe, and my son, Eric, have endured countless days and nights of my practicing at home so that I could come here with my best act, so that I could go to work, and I think, I really wasn't going to work," says Faust. "I had them fooled. What I really did, I wasn't going to work, I was leaving the house and going straight to a grand party. This is a grand party."

It's a party Faust has enjoyed with three generations of the team's fans.

"I've followed generations in terms of births and deaths and marriages and divorces," says Faust. "You know you see it all happen, and the sad thing is that I'll come back in the spring and I'll find that some of the old timers are no longer with us. But then I am greeted by the new babies, too. You see life happening right before your eyes."

At the end of this season, the Chicago White Sox will mark Faust's retirement by naming the organ booth after her. Next spring, although there will be another organist in the booth, for long-time fans, it will be a different ball game.

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